Bryan Robson has declared Cristiano Ronaldo the greatest number seven in Manchester United history – by a distance.
And Robbo, known as Captain Marvel during his glorious career with United and England, is backing the Portuguese superstar, 36, to be banging in the goals into his 40s.
It is that incredible longevity at elite level, record-breaking goal feats and a mass of silverware, which according to Robson, separates Ronaldo from the rest of the Old Trafford legendary sevens – including himself.
The former Three Lions maestro, 64, declared: “For his obvious ability and what he has achieved, it's indisputable that Cristiano is the best.
“People have talked about his age since he came back to United, but his fitness levels are still fantastic – and he is still producing great football because of that.
“I am sure he is going to be another Ryan Giggs – and play on until he is 40 simply because his fitness levels are so high.”
Robbo has been impressed with Ronaldo’s impact since his shock return to England and is convinced his famed approach – whether smashing in another scorcher or constantly keeping himself in peak shape – will assist the development of the club’s younger generation of hitmen.
“He brings back that charisma that has been synonymous with Manchester United and maybe lacking in the recent past,“ added the former West Brom and Middlesbrough boss.
“The most important thing is the influence he can have over the young players, especially forwards like Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
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“They can see the way he trains, see the way he looks after himself, see his dedication, see the way he still enjoys training, enjoys his football – and always has a smile on his face around the training ground.
“If young boys don’t look at that and don’t take that on board they’re never going to be top players.
“They need to appreciate they are seeing such professionalism and that’s the reason you get to the top.”
Robson, now a United ambassador, has delivered his glowing assessment on the Portuguese star in a new book – Viva Ronaldo! The Second Coming of Cristiano.
And he is content to sit behind both Ronaldo and the man responsible for the United number seven shirt being associated with pure genius – the late, great George Best.
Robson, who two Premier Leagues titles, three FA Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup at United during the 80s and early 90s, went on: “Of course, you don’t want to be praising yourself but I’d be happy enough to be placed behind Ronaldo and Best, for sure.”
Thereafter, the debate gets more complicated as David Beckham takes third place in Robbo’s top five – ahead of Eric Cantona and Stevie Coppell.
Robson explained: “Eric was brilliant in five of his six years in English football, but he didn’t achieve anything with France, like he did with United.
“When you look at Becks, he won everything there was to win at United but also had a wonderful career with England.”
As for final pick Coppell, who ruled United’s right flank from 1976 to 1982, he said: “When I first came to United, I played alongside him for the club and England.
“In fact, I asked Steve for the number seven shirt and he was happy for me to have it and took 11.
“He was a fantastic player, and it was such a shame he had a bad knee injury. I’d certainly put him right up there with the best number sevens the club has ever had.”
- Viva Ronaldo!: The Second Coming of Cristiano, by Harry Harris, is out now. Foreword by Nicky Butt, Empire Publishing.
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